You could call Amber Spruill a sports nut. If you don’t believe me, just ask the sports media graduate student the name of her saving’s account. (It’s World Cup 2014.) Now in her second semester at Valparaiso University, the Fishers, Ind. native is having a ball talking sports in an academic setting — she says her current sports journalism course is her favorite class ever. Recently, Spruill opened up about what attracted her to Valparaiso University after four years at a Big 10 school and why her master’s program is a perfect fit.
What brought you to Valpo?
I had a couple of friends that either did their undergraduate work at Valpo or are in law school here currently, so I’ve always known about the school. I did my undergraduate work in political science [at the University of Michigan]. After graduation, I worked for a year but didn’t like what I was doing. So, I realized my dream was to work in sports media or broadcast journalism, something like that. I did a Google search and [VU’s MS in Sports Media] program came up first. It was close to home and really the only specific sports media program in the country that catered to what I wanted to do. It was an easy choice to apply.
What did you do in that gap year between undergrad and grad school?
I worked in customer relations at a medical diagnostic company in Indianapolis. It wasn’t challenging, and I hate to sound cliché, but it wasn’t fun. I was at a point in my life where I could make a change without sacrificing a whole lot.
How did you know sports media was your calling?
I was raised by a single mother, and I’m an only child. I don’t know if it’s nature or nurture, but there’s really no reason why I should have this unnatural passion for any and all sports. … I’ve never been particularly good at a sport, but I understand it, and I love the competition of it. My homepage is Espn.com. It’s always been a big part of my life, and if I can find a way to make it my job, it would probably be the greatest thing ever.
Is there anyone in the field who has inspired you?
I met Dana Jacobson who is an ESPN anchor. Her show is First Take. She went to Michigan, and I met her this past year right before I started grad school. I told her I was going [to study] sports media … and I told her I wanted to be in research or production at ESPN — that’s my pinnacle dream job. She told me to go for it, that there are almost no women in research. I really look up to her because she is surrounded by guys all the time, and she does her job really well.
How is your masters program helping you achieve your goal?
I want to become a jack of all trades. … I think that’s what this program focuses on. It has a heavy focus on digital media, which I like because that’s the future of sports production and broadcast. Also, Valpo’s extracurricular activities are excellent. The student radio station and TV station are really easy to get involved in. For me with my limited experience in either field, they nurture you in a kind of way a lot of employers wouldn’t take the time to do. … I worked all last semester with the campus radio station, and I am still doing [sports] highlights and updates for them. I just got involved with the TV station. I’m going to start hosting, which is trial by fire, so we’ll see how that goes. [Laughs]
It’s probably a lot different from your undergrad experience.
It’s so polar opposite. I felt like a really small fish in a giant pond at Michigan. It would have been nice to have this kind of attention as an undergrad, but it wasn’t feasibly possible. I like that I can drive to class at Valpo. All of my classes are in one building, which at this time of year is nice [laughs]. … I like the attention that the small campus brings.
Do sports occupy a lot of your time outside of academics?
I try to play as many sports as possible, especially growing up. Like I said, I wasn’t particularly good, so I watched a lot of sports sitting on the bench. I joked to my roommate when we upgraded our cable to get the sports package that I could justify it as an academic expense. [Laughs]
Written by Derek Smith